Time to reinvent the spiel

19th April 1996 at 01:00
Professor Paul Black's article, "Off the straight and narrow" (TES, March 29), repeats many cliches which have been around for a long time. The main theme is that the world is changing in unpredictable ways and everything we teach children now will be irrelevant by the time they come to maturity.

This means we must scrap all our preconceived ideas about education and start with a clean slate. Instead of filling the children's heads with useless knowledge, we must teach them to be flexible and adaptable. Above all, we must teach them how to work things out for themselves, and something called "problem-solving". Repeated ad nauseam in many parts of the world, these ideas have done enormous damage. They have been used to justify such things as "discovery learning", whereby children are supposed to reinvent mathematics, which took us hundreds of thousands of years to invent. Also, there is no such thing as "problem-solving"; every problem must be tackled on its own.

These ideas have been preached to whole generations of trainee teachers with the result that we have abdicated our duty to give our children a decent education. Professor Black is talking pernicious rubbish.

If children cannot read or write or add up or speak in a coherent manner, all the so-called "innovations" (which, in fact, date back to Plowden and beyond) will avail them nothing.

STEWART DEUCHAR Vice-chairman Campaign for Real Education Dean Farm Singleborough Milton Keynes

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